Castlewood Eating Disorder Treatment Center Blog

Weight Loss Surgery- Concerns & Confusion

A new study published in the Annals of Surgery found that individuals who had bariatric surgery were more likely to develop colorectal cancer. Based on a study of more than 77,000 obese patients, the researched found the risk among obese patients to be DOUBLE that of a general population. While colorectal cancer risk among obese patients is typically only 26 percent higher than the general population. This suggests that by having bariatric sugery your risk does not decrease from losing weight, it may in fact increase. The researchers also went on to say that these results should not discourage people from getting bariatric surgery. This new information obviously needs to be substantiated by further research, but it does point to an alarming concern. One of the reasons bariatric surgery is often pushed by providers is to reduce an individuals risk of contracting cancer. This research would suggest that just by reducing obesity you may not be decreasing risk, and that in fact surgery may in fact increase your risk of developing cancer. Other reasons bariatric surgery may be encouraged is to reduce stroke, heart attack, and diabetes risk- all of which can be reduced through healthy eating, exercise and smoking cessation. While we understand that for many individuals bariatric surgery may be the optimal solution, for others it results in many side effects, and has been linked to further development of complicating factors such as dehydration, anemia, kidney stones, body aches, bone disease, hypoglycemia, hernia and ulcers. Many of our clients with binge eating disorder have had bariatric surgery only to continue struggling with binge eating disorder, bulimia or even anorexia after their surgery. The surgery inhibits their recovery process as it requires a special diet, clients cannot eat normal amounts of food, and often have vitamin and mineral absorption problems. Most clinics say that they screen for clients with eating disorders, but most do not use standard screening inventories such as the EDI, or even the ED screening utilized by the National Eating Disorder Association.  As a result of lack of screening and proper pre-surgical counseling, many sufferers of eating disorders may use bariatric surgery as a solution to a psychological problem. Others who do not have an eating disorder may opt for bariatric surgery over sustained healthy life style improvements and not gain the "healthy" life they were promised by bariatric surgery because they are not able to follow the post surgical guidelines. And still others opt for bariatric surgery because of weight stigma and providers who are not aware of alternative solutions or that weight is not the whole measure of health. At Castlewood Treatment Center we encourage future research, better screening, and provider education on eating disorders and weight stigma.